Thursday, December 20, 2007

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Jezebel posted an article yesterday from New Scientist about the science of curse words, and the comparisons that can be drawn between the foul mouths of men and women. I just recently finished taking a course called "The Meaning of Silence." Most of the class was bullshit, but one of the books we had to read, Sociolinguistics by Peter Trudgill, was actually incredibly fascinating. Trudgill studied the differences between the way women and men speak in order to draw conclusions about their societal positions. He found that women tend to speak up, attempting to imitate upper-class language and minimize the usage of curse words. On the contrary, men tend to speak down, using lots of swear words in an attempt to sound less educated and therefore, tough. But New Scientist claims that now the amount of times women use curse words has become relatively equal to that of men. To this, I say: FUCK YEAH. But what are the social implications?

For one, I think the stigma against curse words is slowly being lifted. Not only can you say "bitch" on TV, but you can also say "fuck" in places where it previously would have been considered inappropriate. Maybe it's because I live in New York, but I can hear someone say "fuck" in almost any public space and not be offended or taken off guard in the slightest. People in my office, a professional space, often employ curse words. My professors use them. People on the subway use them. My barista at Starbucks uses them. Curse words do not necessarily make you seem uneducated anymore. They are not relegated to just the vernacular of the poor. Instead, they've seemed to cross both economic and gender lines in order to make our speech that much more fucking awesome.

I also think, as women gain more power in our society (Think: Hillary running for President, Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House, Britney Spears as the most famous person in the country), we are less afraid of sounding like "men" and more afraid of sounding weak. Thus, the introduction of "fuck" and "shit" and "damn" into everyday vocabulary.

I, for one, am happy with this change. I had the foulest mouth as a little girl, and that hasn't really gone away. So if women are beginning to side with me in an attempt to say FUCK YOU to vocabulary standards, then of course, I think that's the shit.

-Jess

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